Eagan City Council votes in favor of land-use amendment of former Blue Cross Blue Shield site

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The Eagan City Council voted on a contentious land-use amendment proposal late Tuesday.

Johnson Brothers Liquor Co., the third-largest wine distributor in the nation, is eyeing the former Blue Cross Blue Shield site for its new corporate headquarters and warehouse distribution facility and, after a vote from the Eagan City Council, the 55-acre parcel at 3535 Blue Cross Road is one step closer to being rezoned as “industrial development.”

Neighbors of the former Blue Cross Blue Shield campus have spoken out against the proposal, citing traffic issues, air and noise pollution and the loss of green space. Eagan Mayor Mike Maguire said that the council had received 133 pages of email correspondence regarding the proposal.

Tuesday night nearly 30 Eagan residents took to the microphone to echo those concerns and bring up others such as potentially negative impacts to property values, outdoor recreation spaces, trees and wildlife.

The concept plan for the proposed distribution warehouse includes a 550,000-square-foot warehouse with a future expansion potential of 161,000 square feet, relocation of the neighborhood’s soccer fields to the southern end of the site and repurposing the existing child-care center into an employee training facility.

Established in Minnesota in the 1950s, Johnson Brothers says it has outgrown its current distribution facility at 1999 Shepard Road, near Crosby Farm Park in St. Paul.

Bill Katter, a partner with Interstate Development who is working as a consultant for Johnson Brothers, said Tuesday that the company considered moving to the former Thomson Reuters campus, but at 180 acres it exceeded their needs.

Eagan City Planner Mike Schultz said Tuesday that the proposal will move on to the Metropolitan Council since it requires a change to the city’s comprehensive plan.

Councilmember Cyndee Fields, who lives in the Blue Cross Blue Shield neighborhood, voted in favor of sending the proposal on to the Met Council to learn more, but said she can’t speak to how she’ll vote further down the line. Councilmember Mike Supina was the only vote against the proposal.

Next steps for the project include an environmental assessment worksheet with review and comments from residents and other government agencies, a site plan review and then a potential rezoning, which would require four votes from the city council to pass.

“Four votes tonight does not guarantee four votes when you come back for final implementation,” Maguire told Johnson Brothers.

If the environmental assessment worksheet is accepted, the earliest a rezoning request would go through would likely be in spring 2024, Schultz said.

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